Striving to reduce waste ‘every little thing counts’

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- The 9th Civil Engineer Squadron is on a constant mission to reduce energy cost and conserve our precious resources through projects which upgrade old equipment, make lights automatic, and cool air before it is cooled.

With the Air Force striving to reduce waste, how do you streamline energy use in an area of the country where electricity is inexpensive? Get creative and make every little thing count said Robert McBride, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron base energy manager.

"We live in a part of the state where hydro energy is extremely cheap," said McBride. "This shouldn't be an excuse to not strive to save energy; it's just motivation to try harder to save money and resources."

Unique to the western states, the concept of a swamp cooler, or evaporative cooler, is being used in coordination with traditional air conditioning. Air is cooled by the first cooler prior to entering the AC unit to reduce the load on the more expensive unit.

"Air conditioning proves to be one of the biggest energy users base wide," he said. "Cooling the air before it's cooled may sound silly, but a swamp cooler alone just doesn't work in our extreme temperatures. Reducing the strain on the air conditioning reduces the energy use."

Among the projects most recently completed such as boiler replacements and solar power, automatic light switches and lights that dim as natural light increases have replaced manual on-off switches. Skylights have also been installed in interior rooms to compliment florescent lighting.

"This is a quick way to reduce usage and add a little natural light to dark rooms," said Roger Engstrom, 9th CES resource efficiency manager. "Who doesn't want a little natural light; sky lights are an easy way to add this to a room."

Although difficult, Beale strives to reduce energy usage by three percent every year and has done so for the past 15.

"Improved products come out every day," said Engstrom. "As efficiencies become available, we will continue to utilize those resources."